Canadian tennis stars Milos Raoiic, and Egenuie Bouchard. In a highly complex activity, the human brain determines where the ball is, and is going to be and another part of the brain figures out where in relation to the other player they want to send the ball, and all this is translated into physical movement of the body, arms, wrist, hand etc in another part of the brain
Photo Credit: Getty

New Canadian research into brain function and spatial relationship


We can do it, and do it with complete ease.  Robots can’t, at least not yet.  That is, determine where for example a glass of water on the table in front of us is in exact relation to where we are, translate that perception into a precise motion to reach out toward the glass, open our hands and move hand and arm exactly in order to grip the glass. We can also remember where the glass is relative to other items on the table as well.

It may seem simple, but it’s not.  This highly complex process is something Professor Doug Crawford (PhD) has been studying.

He is a Distinguished Research Professor in Neuroscience and Canada Research Chair in Visuomotor Neuroscience at the Visuomotor Neuroscience Lab of York University in Toronto.

The latest research his team has performed was published in the scientific publication “ The Journal of Neuroscience

Professor Doug Crawford (PhD) of York University’s Visuomotor Neuroscience Lab in Toronto (standing). His team is conducting leading edge research to understand how we determine where things are in relation to us and to each other and where in the brain those distinctions are made. This research will help in developing new treatments for brain injuries and degenerative diseases. © York University-suplied.

We humans can also catch balls tossed at us, or throw them back to the other person judging the distance in relation to where we are.

Humans are very good at judging where things are in relation to us (egocentric), where things are in relation to other things (allocentric), and remembering that.

The participants were given three different tasks to complete when viewing remembered visual targets: egocentric reach (remembering absolute target location), allocentric reach (remembering target location relative to a visual landmark) and a nonspatial control, colour report (reporting color of target).

They were mapping which areas of the brain were activated in terms of perception of space and distance in relation to the differing tasks, and how that was translated in the brain into motor function, reaching the correct distance to an object for example.

The functional magnetic resonance imaging equipment (fMRI) at York University. Candidates brain activity was mapped while they performed tasks related to understanding how we determine where things are in relation to us, and where they are in relation to each other © York University

Professor Crawford says knowing which areas are used for which functions will help surgeons, doctors, and clinicians in understanding brain damage due to stroke, injury, or degenerative diseases, and how then to develop either improved or new methods to treat such cases.

Dr Crawford says that in large part, his team is breaking new research ground in developing this new information especially in reagrd to “allccentric” function, and is already working with both health professionals and patients in regard to this neuroscience research.

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3 comments on “New Canadian research into brain function and spatial relationship
  1. Avatar Jasmin B. says:

    The Parasympathetic,Sympathetic and Central Nervous System is usually involved in human movement and coordination. How are these Systems affected during research? The human eye especially the optic nerve process up to 90% of information. How is the human eye especially the optic nerve affected during the research sessions?

  2. Avatar Jasmin B. says:

    Metronews stated that Mars has a toxic environment and that plants cannot grow on its surface. Metronews also stated that Mars has 62% less gravity. How can snow fall on a toxic planet with 62% less gravity? I don’t believe some of the research findings from York University is very accurate. A second opinion is always a good idea.

  3. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    God has given us so many challenges to research.